On Writing Children, #1

News flash: little boys are obsessed with their penises.

I have two boys and genitals take up approximately 10% of our daily conversations.

Eventually, this is going to get uncomfortable for me. But right now, my 3.5 year old cares about little more than biological facts. Mostly related to: How in the world does Mommy pee?

G: Mommy, do you have a penis? [asked for, perhaps, the 129,385th time in his life.]
Me: No, sweetie. Girls don’t have penises.
G: What!? How do you PEE?
Me: [Being logical and more thorough than necessary in all things] All people pee through their urethra. For boys, your urethra sticks out of your body through your penis. For girls, we still pee through our urethra, but it doesn’t stick out. It’s tucked up inside.
G: Whoa.
Me: Right?
G: [Gets up and runs outside to hit things with sticks.]

So many times I see people teaching kids that penis and vagina are analogues. In the sexual sense…perhaps they are (arguable. clitoris, anyone?). But when my 3.5 year old once to know the difference between how he pees and how Mommy pees…the location of the urethra is the answer.

And I think this is especially important considering when I married my husband in our mid-20s he still had no idea how girls peed. Because that’s the state of our biological and sexual education, folks. If the vagina is the analogue of the penis…is that, like, where pee comes from??

It’s easy to forget sometimes how differently a child’s brain works versus how our brains work. Compatible sex organs mean nothing to a toddler. But the answer to how a girl pees when she hasn’t got a penis?

My lanta, but it’s such a simple answer!

And so often, simple but correct answers do the trick. Kids are just trying to figure out how the world around them works. And having adults blow them off, sweet-ify answers, outright lie, or change the subject doesn’t work. 

Kids aren’t tiny adults, and shouldn’t be written (or treated) as such. But they are curious, inquisitive, and resourceful.

That curiosity doesn’t just go away. If you won’t answer them, they’ll find their answers elsewhere. It’s what you did as a kid, wasn’t it?


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